The Back-to-School Happy Dance

I always have a wistful feeling when the end of summer approaches, and I know the family will be transitioning back into the school year, after several idyllic months of sun, sitting by the pool and enjoying a slower schedule.

But about five minutes after I wave goodbye to the kids on the first day of school, I’m doing the back-to-school happy dance.

See, as a working mother with a flexible schedule, I feel like I walk around all summer with a giant question mark hovering over my head. I love that my work-from-home ministry as a writer and speaker allows me to arrange for a lot more family time in the summer, but that doesn’t mean all my projects and deadlines go away! I can say no to some projects, push off others until the fall and cut some down to “summer size”… I can arrange for camps, grandparents, play dates and babysitters to give me some work hours … but the reality is that all summer long there will still be writing deadlines, conference calls and meetings interspersed between tie-dying T-shirts, water balloon fights and long movie-watching sessions.

Summer is just a teeny bit schizophrenic. Wonderful, but schizophrenic. Can you relate, or am I the only one who puts every day of the summer together like a giant jigsaw puzzle and hopes that I won’t find a major piece missing? (Bowling today, friends over tomorrow … and I hope their play date won’t get cancelled Thursday so I can go to that meeting …!)

Normally, it’s so important to keep boundaries around my work life, so that when I’m working I get that work done well, and when I’m with the kids I give them my full attention. But all those good intentions seem to just explode when the “flexible” summer schedule hits. I love going with the kids to the pool – but the kids know that (unlike during the school year) if my publisher calls while I’m with them, I will need to take the call. I love being able to take multiple weeks out of town so the kids can hang out with their cousins and I can see my parents and brother — but it means that I will need to spend some hours working on a book deadline most days while we’re there. Or, yes, I can go with the family to the museum for the day – but since that magazine article is due, I’ll need to be typing away on my laptop in the front passenger seat while my (very understanding) husband does the hour-long drive there and back.

For moms with flexible work schedules, summer is all about the unstructured chaos of trade-offs and juggling – even more trade-offs and juggling than we normally do, which is saying something.

But then…school starts. The calendar is about to return to structured chaos, instead! There is some predictability coming; I can almost taste it; it’s just around the corner.

I walk the kids into their classrooms on the first day, grin to myself as I watch their excited nervousness, watch them hug friends they haven’t seen all summer; then like a lot of other moms and dads around me, I wave goodbye and turn away to walk back toward the car. Tears prickle my eyes as I think of how they are growing up, as I thank God for what a wonderful summer we had, and pray for God to give them an amazing year ahead, with great teachers.

I walk back through the parking lot, and catch the eye of another couple of moms who are also sniffling just a bit. We give each other wistful grins … and then break into the back-to-school happy dance.

Do you have a 'Back-to-School' happy dance or other way to celebrate the kids going back to school?

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2 thoughts on “The Back-to-School Happy Dance

  1. I work full time out of necessity and my schedule is not flexible at all. I dread the kids going back to school because it means that much more stress piled onto an already stressfull day. I LOVE when the kids are out for the summer. The weight that is lifted from my shoulders…no before school transportation arrangements, no after school transportation arrangements, no monitoring homework/projects, no dealing with teachers, no remembering to sign papers, no remembering lunch money…

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  2. Wow– thank you so much for this post. I work from home, and your description of summers as schizophrenic is PERFECT!! I'm a fairly new stepmom to my husband's three children, and he doesn't seem to understand how much my life has changed since our marriage a year ago– or why I'm sometimes on the verge of tears at the end of a "great" summer day. I feel so torn, so tired, and lost in the shuffle. Sadly, the kids live with their mom during the school year, so my husband mourns their going in that regard too…but I often feel like he thinks I'm mean or heartless for celebrating the return of the school year. Thanks for assuring me that this is a normal "mom" feeling!

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